Anzac Day and the Irish Anzacs

For Australians, April brings to mind Anzac Day, the annual commemoration of those Australians who died or served in all conflicts in which Australia has been involved. The day itself – 25 April – is the anniversary of the landing in 1915 of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Gallipoli in Turkey. Eight months later the troops were evacuated having gained little more in ground than that which they had captured on the first day. The Gallipoli campaign was a resounding defeat for the Allies. Yet, for Australians it has become a symbol of the birth of the nation, the time when the populations of the six Australian colonies which federated in 1901 began to see themselves as one people. However, what many Australians do not realise is that the Anzacs were not the only soldiers who fought at Gallipoli. It was a multi-national campaign with soldiers from Britain, France, India and French Africa taking part. Among the British Army contingent were soldiers belonging to Irish regiments. In fact, more Irishmen died at Gallipoli than New Zealanders. Irish soldiers fought alongside Australian soldiers at such iconic places as Lone Pine, Quinn’s Post and Hill 60. In addition, many other Irishmen were themselves members of the Australian army (or Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as it was known). On my estimation, about 6,600 Irish-born men and women enlisted in the AIF during the First World War. I am currently undertaking a research project through the Global Irish Studies Centre at UNSW with funding from the Irish government’s Emigrant Support Program to identify each of those Irish Anzacs and to learn more about them. In the meantime, at 6.30pm on 1 May 2013, I will be giving an Anzac Day address at Parliament House, Sydney on “Irish Anzacs: the contribution of the Australian Irish to the Anzac tradition”. If you would like to attend just let the Irish consulate know for catering purposes: (02) 92649635 or by using the consulate’s online contact form.

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